THE number of salmon caught by rod and line in one area of Scotland has increased by more than 8% in a year.

The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board has recorded a provisional total rod catch of 920 salmon in 2013 compared with 847 in 2012. The rise came despite low expectations because of falling river levels and poor fishing conditions and was in stark contrast to the River Spey, which reported its worst season for 60 years.

Anglers in Ness also reported seeing good numbers of 'running' fish, with a significant number hooked and lost.

Ness board chairman Michael Martin said: "It's encouraging to see even a slight improvement during such a difficult year. It is important, however, that the trend continues and we get back over the 1000 fish mark that was regularly achieved over the last half century.

"We take particular encouragement from the best spring catch for 19 years - 261 fish compared with 174 in 2012 and well above the five-year average of 177 fish. This is the fourth successive spring increase and suggests that although the spring component is still in long-term decline, it is showing signs of improvement."

He said voluntary conservation measures introduced by the board, in partnership with proprietors and anglers across the Ness system, had resulted in a significant improvement in the rates of fish being put back into the water. The spring release rate now stands at 98%.

Chris Conroy, the board's director, said: "Our salmon anglers recognise the importance of catch and release as a conservation tool."